Friday on My Mind: Summer is Here!

photo by Bebe Labree Besch

It’s time again for Friday on My Mind. Our weekly blog post where we look at videos centered around one common theme. This is a collaborative effort between KEXP and King 5 News.

This week we are all about summer! Try to forget that hitting the longest day of the year means ever more darkness from here on out. The thing about Seattle and summer is that we are all very much fooled by June. We do this every year. We make it through that wet and often dark and cool spring and get a few days or weeks of sun and BAM! We expect it’s summer, but it’s not. It really isn’t summer until July 5th. Look it up. It ALWAYS starts then. Go ahead, pull out the flip flops and swimwear all you want, but get ready to wait. The good news is, we get September, which is our best kept secret. It truly is a glorious month. But nevermind that, let’s push for a warm June. Now that being said, I’m writing this from NYC where it was 88 degrees. Like a true idiot from Seattle, I went running outside and didn’t think about it being at least 18 degrees hotter and 100% more humid than my home. Sunscreen? Right, like I own that. Anyway, I nearly died. Summer! Let’s get it on!

Mungo Jerry – In The Summertime

There’s something immediately nostalgic about summer. It’s probably because it harkens back to those halcyon days of childhood, when you got out of school and summer stretched ahead with its seemingly endless promise of freedom, fun, and adventure. Then you go back to school, and eventually grow up, and spend too much of your summers longingly staring out of an office window remembering water parks and camp and bike rides and how things used to be. Well, here in the upper left corner of the country, we get a lot of daylight right around solstice time (it’s the tradeoff for those soggy vampire months of winter). So shake off that melancholy and relive the glory of summer after work is done! To go with all that nostalgia, we’ve picked some 1970s warm weather classics from the vaults (of Youtube) to help you get in the mood for a glorious and much deserved change of season. One of the biggest hits to be written about the Summer is “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry. From the band’s 1970 album Electronically Tested, it would be their only hit outside the UK. It’s OK, summer jams are totally allowed to be one hit wonders. Mungo Jerry’s name was inspired by the poem “Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer”, from T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. But that’s not on your summer reading list, so what do you care? Instead, enjoy these vintage mutton chops and moustaches. Here is the video footage of “In The Summertime”.

Stevie Wonder – Never Dreamed You’d Leave Me in the Summer

What is it about summer and love, romance, and all that mushy stuff? Is it the sudden re-emergence of the sight of pale, sun starved skin? If you look at the collective body of American summer songs, we are like horny, sex starved teenagers. But not all is happy in summerland. Stevie Wonder explores the blue and lonesome side of the hotter months with his ballad “Never Dreamed You’d Leave Me in the Summer” off the album Where I’m Coming From. Wonder croons, “I never dreamed, you’d leave in summer / I thought you would go, then come back home / I thought the cold would leave by summer / But my quiet nights will be spent alone.” Yes, it’s a sad song, but the album itself, his 13th, marked an important step for Wonder. Released in 1971, Where I’m Coming From was the first album on which Wonder had complete creative control, breaking free from Berry Gordy’s famously tight control over Motown artists. Oh yeah, and Stevie Wonder was only 21 years old when he released this, again, his 13th album. If that doesn’t put an existential knot in your stomach, you’re a lucky one. Anyhow, the song is a bit sad, a reminder that not all of summer can be carefree. But the overall spirit of the album is that of a still young artist growing up and breaking free and defining himself on his own terms. After all, isn’t that the true spirit of summer?

ABBA – Summer Night City

On our nostalgic summer cruise we turn now to 1978, with ABBA’s ode to their hometown of Stockholm, Sweden. Oh, an ABBA song on KEXP, are you surprised? Well, get over yourself my friend. Summer is all about fun! ABBA is one of the most commercially successful groups in music history, and summer jams should be recognizable from a beach boom box or a rolled down window. In this post Mamma Mia! world, it is all too easy to write off ABBA as your embarrassing Aunt’s favorite wedding request band. But they are not all bell bottoms and rhinestones. OK, maybe they are. But who cares? Anyhow, Summer Night City was not the biggest hit for ABBA, but it still did well. The group struggled to find the right mix for the track, and have said at various times they regret releasing it. Nevertheless, it was popular, and was the last number one hit in their home country. And hey, if anyone knows about enjoying precious summer days, its the Scandinavians. You think we’ve got it bad in Seattle in the winter? Try living in the dark, all the damn time, surviving on fermented fish and vodka.

Honorable Mentions:

Jonathan Richman – That Summer Feeling

Nothing captures that melancholic nostalgia of summer quite like this awesome Jonathan Richman track. The song was released in 1984, and he’s settled into his gentle, jangly folk troubadour stage after breaking up his protopunk group The Modern Lovers a decade earlier. “That summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life,” sings a still baby-faced Richman. And as you hear him sing it, you know damn well it’s true. Ah well, don’t let it get you too down. Have a popsicle and try to smile. Check out Richman in this live footage from 1983, with a testy Jello Biafra and John Cale on the couch at the end. It’s from an Australian show called “After Dark” with host Donnie Sutherland.

The Hold Steady – Constructive Summer

Here’s a summer tune from The Hold Steady’s 2008 album, Stay Positive, their fourth. “We’re gonna build something this summer,” sings Craig Finn. That’s the spirit! It’s not all about looking back longingly to summers past. We’ve got three or so months of perfect weather ahead. Let’s get out there! Let’s build something! Seattleites tend to rise to the occasion when the sun comes out. Don’t let the best part of our year pass you by. Whether it’s a garden, a tree house for the kids, or a cornhole set for backyard fun, get creative and make the most of this summer.

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